The new president of the State of Israel, יצחק (בוז’י) הרצוג – Isaac Herzog, has taken upon himself a very important mission, not only for the State of Israel, but for the Jews all over the world, and indeed for the whole world. In his inauguration speech, on July 7, 2021, he made two very important announcements: First, when speaking about the Israeli society, Herzog addressed the division that has spread throughout Israeli society. Instead of hating those who dispute us, Herzog suggested that were it not for them, we, too, would not develop and grow. In his words, “We must stop seeing the differences between us as an obstacle; they are the source of our strength. Thanks to them, Israeli power is revealed in its full intensity. After all, we would not be who we are without the vast range of human and ideological diversity that has gathered here.” Herzog also added, “I still believe in us. I believe that this is possible. … Let’s choose us, each day anew. We will choose to win together, and not only to win out over each other. We will choose to be kind, to extinguish the fire and the hatred with the Israeli spirit, to be plentiful in our love … to be united…. We will choose to bid farewell to the schism that is destroying us. All of us, together.”
Next, Herzog addressed the plague of antisemitism. He stated, “In my role as President of the State, I undertake to … assist in the battle against antisemitism and hatred of Israel.”
On the surface, there seems to be no connection between the two challenges that Herzog pointed out, namely Jewish unity and Jew-hatred. In truth, however, the two are intertwined, and the latter cannot be solved without first solving the former.
Throughout the ages, our sages have linked between our unity and prosperity, and our division and decline. This Sunday, we commemorated the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the date when both Temples were ruined. As every Jew knows, while those Temples were ruined by foreign armies, their success was made possible by our prior Jewish decline from unity into hatred, derision, and finally, mutual self-annihilation.
It is beyond the scope of this short article to cite the countless Jewish sources that speak of the paramount importance of our unity, but I would warmly advise the newly sworn president to refer to them for validity, as they support every word from his speech, which I just quoted above.
As I wrote above, Jewish unity is important not only for the well-being of the Jews; it is important for the entire world. Anyone familiar with the roots of the Jewish people knows that our ancestors came from various nations in ancient Mesopotamia, and were not an organic clan or a tribe that had evolved into a nation. Anyone familiar with our roots also knows that at the foot of Mt. Sinai, we united “as one man with one heart,” and thereby received the onus of being an example of unity. Being able to see our differences as the “source of our strength,” as Herzog put it, is indeed what made us special at that time, and “seeing the differences between us as an obstacle,” as he stated, has caused our downfall every single time.
Here, too, I would warmly advise referring to our own sources for validity. For example, in the portion Aharei Mot, The Book of Zohar writes about our unity, division, and its importance to the world: “‘Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to also sit together.’ These are the friends as they sit together and are not separated from each other. At first, they seem like people at war, wishing to kill one another … then they return to being in brotherly love. …And you, the friends who are here, as you were in fondness and love before, henceforth you will also not part from one another … and by your merit, there will be peace in the world.”
Our sages have always known this to be true and wrote about this throughout our history. Ramchal wrote about it in his commentary on the Torah, the book Kol Mevaser stressed it, too, but perhaps one of the most eloquent writers about the role of Israel in modern times was the great Rav Kook. In Orot HaKodesh, he wrote, “Since we were ruined by unfounded hatred, and the world was ruined with us, we will be rebuilt by unfounded love, and the world will be rebuilt with us.”
Indeed, when we rebuild our nation through unity and love, there will be no wars throughout the world, and certainly no antisemitism.
For more on this topic, refer to the book Like a Bundle of Reeds: Why unity and mutual guarantee are today’s call of the hour.